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Cross Cultural Collaborations

Keith Heggart High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Currently, I'm engaged in a collaborative project with an educator from the US. Basically, we are getting students from a number of schools in the US and Australia to collaborate with each other.

I thought I would share with you my thoughts on the project thus far, identifying what has worked well and what has been disappointing.

The project is currently up to the second stage, although that makes it sound like it is much better organised than it was - it has kind of developed organically, rather than following a strict plan. Stage 1 was basically about logging the students on - basically, they all accessed Edmodo, introduced themselves and then briefly commented on their perceptions of the other culture, which was interesting in and of itself.

Phase Two requires students to identify a particular topic (global issues, travel, food and celebration, sports, school and community, language) that he or she is interested in and then work with students in the other country to prepare a project on that topic - be it a podcast, a film, a slideshow, a prezi or something else.

We have great hopes for this project, but there have been a few issues: the time difference is a challenge - students don't get immediate replies, which can cause the project to lose momentum. Secondly, it's quite difficult organising such a project, when you consider you don't actually ever get to speak to the 'class' as a whole. Edmodo, on the other hand, has been an excellent tool for this kind of thing, allowing us to create a semblance of class time.

Has anyone else here engaged in this kind of project? What did you find useful or challenging?

Comments (3)

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Instructional Coach

Keith, I am interested in

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Keith,

I am interested in having our students collaborate internationally, but I have no idea where to begin. Any suggestions?

High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Twitter as a starting point...

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Hi Blake,
Love your description - curriculum alchemist! Personally, I've found twitter to be an incredibly useful way to start off international collaboration. (I should also mention Edutopia, too!). For example, in one of the projects that I've tried, I threw out a query using the #edchat hashtag asking for anyone interested - best to be clear about your location and what age groups you are looking for. I got lots of interest. The next step, I think, is meeting with the teacher who will be coordinating the project at the other school - time differences can make things tricky here - and I recommend skyping pretty regularly to organise what you want and how often you meet.

Let me know how you get on!

Global PBL, student engagement in STEM, language practice

World's largest online network of K12 teachers: ePals

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You can find K12 teachers across 200 countries through the free global community offered by ePals. Now 16 years old, ePals has a translation system to 59 languages to ease communication between teachers. (Not all teachers are on Twitter or speak English.)
One common use is to practice a new language, so US teachers of Spanish, French, Chinese, etc. will find language-partners for their students. AP teachers in particular find this helpful to engage students in more writing practice with the peer helping to correct some of the nuances of language. (They report increased AP scores as one outcome.) An example: http://www.epals.com/blogs/teacherspotlight/archive/2011/02/03/estrechan...
Teachers of English outside the English-speaking world also are eager to connect with English-speaking classes to practice. (S. Korea, China, Russia, Turkey, Japan, etc.) What's interesting is that ESL teachers in places like Russia want to collaborate on science projects, so the students are using science vocabulary in English and working "in" science too.
ePals also offers free projects, so that teachers can more easily find a partner for a specific collaboration. Projects: http://www.epals.com/projects/info.aspx?DivID=index
Teacher Project Forum (to find partners) for "The Way We Are" project(a great first collaborative experience): http://www.epals.com/forums/132.aspx
The ePals projects provide a structure with rubrics and related materials that can help teachers collaborate more quickly and easily. After doing one or two ePals projects, teachers may be confident to create their own collaborative activity. Or check out examples of teacher-created projects: http://www.epals.com/blogs/teacherspotlight/archive/tags/Teacher+Spotlig...
To participate, you must sign up for a free teacher account and get an approved profile.
You can also get free SchoolMail for your students to use to communicate with the other students.
ePals is not blocked in China, unlike many western sites including Twitter, so that adds 1/4 of the world's teachers to your possible collaboration group.
Whether or not you use ePals in your project, you can post student work in the ePals Student Media Galleries for viewing by 25 million monthly: http://bit.ly/StMedia

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